Women’s Health Magazine Celebrates #MHAwarenessMonth with #WhoNotWhat

In its May issue, Women’s Health Magazine poses the question: Which of these women have a mental illness?

The answer, is, of course, all of them.

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There are many women featured, including Women’s Health Editor-in-Chief Amy Keller Laird, who has OCD. CEO of Stigma Fighters and our VP of Marketing Sarah Fader speaks about anxiety; Actress Laura Oceane shines through her Borderline Personality Disorder; Founder and Editor-in-Chief of The OCH Literary Society Allie Burke reminisces about the worst thing ever said to her about her Schizophrenia, “I get trolled pretty hard on social media. People say, ‘Oh my god, you’re schizophrenic, why don’t you go kill yourself?” Allie remembers the comment from someone she didn’t know on Facebook, when someone claimed that psychiatric medication was a government conspiracy and mental illnesses didn’t actually exist.

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Laird, who wrote the introduction of the ambitious article, talks about all women affected by mental illness. “Whether we have OCD or anxiety or bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, all of us share one common challenge: stigma. It shrouds mental illness, leaving patients to suffer alone and in silence, fearful of repercussions. Grave repercussions that include an increased risk for chronic medical conditions (such as osteoporosis and Alzheimer’s), lost earnings (a collective $193.2 billion a year), second-rate health care, and a high incidence of suicide.”

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Of course, men suffer from some of the same illnesses as the women featured in the magazine, but there are “gender gaps,” which is why this article is so important. “Due to a mix of hormones, cultural pressures, and a higher risk for physical and emotional abuse, at least twice as many women as men are struck by [Depression, Anxiety, Panic Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder]. An example of this is the stigma Fader faced at work, Carrie Arnold (the author of the article), writes. “When grade-school teacher Sarah revealed her anxiety and PTSD at work, the environment turned hostile. “My coworkers were nasty,” she says. “One of them kept notes about things I did that she didn’t like.” Nine months later, she was fired; her employer didn’t give a reason. (Perhaps this is why  two-thirds of educators with mental illnesses hide them from their employers.) Traumatized, Sarah didn’t sue. But the experience haunts her. “Whenever I apply for a job, I’m scared to check that box that says I have a disability,” she says. “I’m afraid that I will be discriminated against – and the reality is that I will be.” Fader writes candidnly about her experience with mental illness for many national publications. She has been featured on The Huffington Post, Psychology Today magazine, Quartz, a division of The Atlantic.

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Burke, Fader’s business partner and the Executive Board Chair at Stigma Fighters, recalls the number of times she has heard the S-word in casual conversation. “I’ll hear people talking about someone who doesn’t fit in, and they’ll call them ‘schizo,'” says, Allie Burke, a 29-year-old Los Angeles novelist with schizophrenia. “It’s very hurtful,” quotes the article. Just because you don’t fit in doesn’t mean you’re schizophrenic, and vice versa.

In the month of May, and for every month thereafter, Women’s Health magazine wants to shut down all of the stigma that its featured women have had to survive against. “Changing the dialogue around mental illness is going to take more than a handful of meaningful conversations (though that’s a great start!). Here, five ways to support the effort, in person and online.”

  1. Volunteer Your Time
  2. Use Your Vote
  3. Open Your Wallet
  4. Tune in Live
  5. Be Social

Women’s Health, NAMI, and various non-profit organizations including Stigma Fighters, will be using #WhoNotWhat to change the dialogue. As the headliner to many mental health features of the same women long before Women’s Health was involved, including the Editor-in-Chief of our own magazine, The OCH Literary Society supports this initiative with every breath.

We ask that you please join us by supporting these amazing women and so many more, and be #WhoNotWhat this Mental Health Awareness Month. Thank you for your amazing support.

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